Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miriam Méndez: Bach Por Flamenco (2005)

I really love records that create a unique blend of very different styles: On Bach Por Flamenco Miriam Méndez an exceptional classical pianist creates an incredible mixture (guess what?) of baroque and flamenco. Miriam Méndez is an exceptional classical pianist from a family of great musical tradition. Having been a student of Lazar Berman, she studied at the Conservatory of Seville and Barcelona, and specialized in Bach's work in Belgium , Switzerland, Holland and Italy.
Bach Por Flamenco includes parts of the music of Bach adapted and transformed impressively to flamenco emphasizing its true essence. The record features the first movement from "Concerto in G minor" and several preludes of "The Well-Tempered Clavier”. The great piano work and the flamenco arrangements are accompanied by guitar (Eugenio Iglesias), percussion (Mariano Bizarraza), violin (Tania Vinokur), cello (Ángel Morilla) and dancing (Manuel Vargas, yes you can hear the heals) plus support from the Yerbabuena choir. All in all this is a very exiting record and it really makes you wanting to see the artist's show!

Preview | Buy! | Myspace

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gonzales: Solo Piano (2004)

I knew some Gonzales earlier records / releases (and also later ones) but I didn't really like this particular kind electronica downtempo releases. On solo piano he tried something different: Being apparently an excellent pianist he delivered some beautiful compositions with a sort of minimalism style reminding me of Erik Satie. I think Gonzales summarizes the record best in the liner notes:
"16 Piano themes for left hand accompaniment and right hand melody: Although they say the piano can create the most colors of any instrument, it is actually black and white, much like an old silent movie. Staring down at my hands, I imagine each piano piece as a shadow against the wall" - Gonzales.
He also released a songbook containing the songs. The youtube clip below is the first part (the movie is split in seven parts) of Gonzales playing live at Angoulême, France in 2006. It is a real pleasure to see how differently he interprets his own songs. Higly recommended!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bernd Steidl: Psycho Acoustic Overture (1991)

"Psycho Acoustic Overture" describes already pretty much where this record takes us: It does not really fit into standard genres as it combines complex arrangements and heaviness with an incredible nylon-string acoustic guitar. Bavarian guitarist Bernd Steidl, in addition to being an amazing technical player, is a talented composer and arranger, augmenting his furious acoustic runs with drums and bass, harp, grand piano, and operatic female vocals.
For a sample of his skill, listen to his near-unbelievable solo studies, "Irrlichter" and "Will-O-The-Wisp", as well as the stunning harp-guitar duet, "Jeux d'eau," in which he doubles the harp's arpeggios note-for-note at Pentium speed. "Psycho Acoustic Overture" is a one-of-a-kind, essential album for fans of neo-classical guitar music.
This record already dates back to 1991 and taking this fact into account the record's sound is really incredible. Unfortunately Steidl does not seem to be very active recently.

Preview | Buy! | discogs

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Era: The Tunnel EP (2006) / Third Eye Guerrilla EP (2009)

Time for favorites again this time with netaudio act from Naples, Italy: Black Era. I don't know much about the band's history but they are around since 2004 with a couple of EPs and full releases. Essentially, Black Era is trip-hop with fine female vocals (Dy Darshan) and smooth electronic sounds (Blob) and guitars (Allfuzz).
The band's sound is a strong reminiscence to the British Trip-Hop sound from the 1990's though the band clearly sets its own distinctive style. The first EP I picked for this review is The Tunnel EP published in 2006. The four songs feature brilliant songwriting with my personal highlight being "Trilateral - Realize U Are".

Thought this is an electronic act the band is very outspoken about politics with references e.g. to Noam Chomsky. The second EP Third Eye Guerrilla brings along 5 fine songs with my favorite being The Gift (Tongueless).
Black Era is also a very active live act so if you're happen to be in Naples you should check them out.

All Black Era releases are under CC which means they are free to distribute. If you like to support the artists you can also buy selected releases directly at the label aquietbump.

Black Era: Myspace | Facebook | Web

The Tunnel EP (2006)
Download | discogs

Third Eye Guerrilla EP (2009)
Download | discogs

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anima: Spasenje (2010)

Now that 2010 is slowly closing, I'd like to present another highlight of this year: Anima is a young band from Serbia from the Vojvodina province and Spasenje (en.: Salvation) is their first official release after two demos. In my oppionion the music is described best as Modern Metal with lyrics in Serbian which makes the record particularly interesting to me. According to the band website this record was already finished in 2008, but distribution problems resulted in not releasing it until Spring 2010 when it was made available for free.

Musically, this is a very exiting melange of different Metal styles with lots of progressive ideas and amazing melodies fading one catchy tune into another. The fine vocals (again, in Serbian only) are changing between the male singer Marko Anđelić and female singer Marta Petrović managing to transport the feeling and atmosphere very well even though I don't understand the language. Most of the time, I prefer vocalists singing in their native language (rather then in bad English ;) - Anima deserves credit for doing so.
The record's production is absolutely spotless and the release comes with a full pdf booklet including lyrics. Currently, there seems to be less band activity and I really hope that this band is going to continue and that I can see them live one day - they really deserve all the best! Again, this type of release is made possible by the Internet and by the Internet only! Beautiful!

Download | Web | Not for sale! (unfortunately) | Myspace | discogs

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Badi Assad - Solo (1994)

There is a ton of great guitarists that are genius in their particular genres and styles:
Brazilian Badi Assad, the younger sister of Sergio and Odair Assad - partners in a world-famous classical guitar duo, is standing out of that group. Classically trained, she combines an astonishing one-woman-band technique, adding gorgeous singing, hand percussion and a startling menagerie of percussive vocal effects to her stellar fretwork.

As a member of this musically talented family, Badi emerges with the makings of a musical personality which, like those of all great artists, cuts across the boundaries of our musical microcosm, standing them all on their heads in the process. Badi's Solo is simply fantastic! This record is already 16 years old and it shows the timeless character of this unique blend of music.

If you like this release of Badi Assad you should also check out her other releases which range from classical to her own unique Brazilian style and as well this interesting interview.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Various Artists: Dinastía Inmortal, Cuarto Acto (2009)

There is a thing about compilations: They exist since the beginning of records but unfortunately they are too often used as a dumping ground for various reasons with songs not matching each other. Rarely, you find compilations that make a sense of their own. Dinastía Inmortal, Cuarto Acto is such a release. It is the forth release (hence Cuarto Acto) of the Mexican label Dinastía Inmortal delivering a compilation of their Gothic Metal bands.
It takes off with the well known band Anabantha ("La Persecución y la Cruz") and continues with one hit after another. What I like is that all songs is that they are all sung in Spanish a language which surprisingly seems to be very suitable for Gothic Metal. Other highlights include "Santa Maldad" of Arcadia and "Sangre por perdon" of Valle de la Muerte. Those 9 songs perfectly matching together make you return to this record over and over again.
It is beautiful to see how the Internet helps with the distribution of content. How difficult would it have it been to find and to listen to a Mexican Gothic Metal underground release 15 years ago in Europe? Impossible I would say. We live in great times...

Preview | Buy! | Myspace

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Portal 7: Demo 21 / Cápsula Mar (2004)

This is why I like the Internet so much: You find artists and songs you would never have found otherwise. This especially true for demos. In 2004 I found some catchy songs of a Gothic Metal band from Uruguay Portal 7. Though the sound is pretty much demo-type they showed some great ideas ranging from Gothic to more experimental metal.

Track listing:
  1. 21 (3:31)
  2. Portal (4:17)
  3. Cápsula Mar (2:49)
  4. Ashes to Ashes (3:40)
  5. Anymore (live) (3:46)
Unfortunately, the band disappeared around the same time and we will probably never see those ideas realized on a regular record :( but who knows the myspace profile is still active!

Preview | Only Demo | Myspace

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saeko: Above Heaven - Below Heaven (2004)

Saeko (pronounced Siko in English) is a fascinating artist who is originally from Japan. At the turn of the millennium she decided to relocate to Europe in order to pursue a career as a Metal singer. The 2004 release of "Above Heaven - Below Heaven" realized that goal and brought an outstanding album to us.
This album is actually one of the reasons why I listen to to Power Metal music. Other bands of this genre like Helloween or Hammerfall never interested me - they produced well crafted music but for me these lacked an essential ingredient: Feeling. And this is where Saeko comes in: She combines brilliant vocals with power, feeling and aggression together with great guitar solos and original riffs and outstanding melodies. The album pushes from one song to another with an enormous amount of energy ("Nature Of Mortality") complimented by excellent ballads ("On The Way To Eternity"). Saeko's second album "Life" (2006) is a worthy successor and a recommendation as well. Unfortunately, she does not perform any longer - hopefully we'll see here one day back on stage again!

Preview | Buy! | Website (highly recommended)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Månegarm: Urminnes Hävd - The Forest Sessions (2006)

I listen to a lot of Rock and Metal music but both Viking and Black Metal are usually not my genres of music. Månegarm's usual releases therefore never interested me with the exception of Urminnes Hävd (The Forest Sessions). It is a purely folk music EP with all songs sung in Swedish with high, clear female and male vocals. Instruments beeing used are violins, acoustic guitars, cow-drums and the djembe and the dense atmosphere is complemented by the sounds of birds, campfires and timber being cut.
The beauty of this acoustic album lies in its vivid power of tranfering you right into a Scandinavian forest making you dream and enjoying the surrounding nature. Where Månegarm's regular metal releases are average at best Urminnes Hävd shines with highlights such as "Döden" or "Vaggvisa". If I were them I'd drop the black metal and master greater tasks...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Harold Budd / Ruben Garcia / Daniel Lentz: Music For 3 Pianos (1992)

This is definitely one of my favorite, timeless, ambient classics. 18 years after its release it still sounds like it was recorded just yesterday. Basically, this peace of music contains of 6 sketches of piano music distilled into 22 minutes of beautiful music. Though I would say that this is ambient music all sounds are produced merely by Pianos and so it is essentially comparable to its genre founder Ambient 1: Music For Airports by Brian Eno. The trio Budd / Garcia / Lentz explores the space between music and silence and to such an extend how of the highest order, in which the echoes and silences mean as much as the notes themselves.

‘Pulse, Pause, Repeat’ opens the record with a mood of melancholic reflection, and by the time ‘Music for 3 Pianos’ comes to a close with the quiet but triumphant ‘La Casa Bruja’ you realise that for its short duration you have been drawn into another world. This is Budd’s (and his companions) true strength, to remove you from everyday life and make music which belongs someplace else. Amazing music.

Preview | Buy! | discogs

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ghost Hill: Embrace the Chasm (2010)

Here comes one of my favorites so far of 2010: Ghosthill is a young band from Kaliningrad, Russia playing symphonic power metal. Traditionally, this genre of music is not considered to be very modern or inventive but on this venture musical arrangements are absolutely superb. Instrumental skills are stunning with great guitars solos, uplifting keyboards and the vibrating voice of singer Mira. It is surprising to see how the band managed to get old fashioned keyboards sounds ("The Mist") transfered into a very modern context. The same goes for the Autotune (or Cheer) effect on the singers voice ("Silent Night"). The band took some risks here but the results are very rewarding.
One might argue that the singer's English language abilities are not the best ones but I think it contributes actually to the charm of this enjoyable listen. In fact, I would have liked to hear songs in Russian as well because I often prefer the artist's mother tongue over English - maybe that is something that we will see in the future. I deeply wish the band all the success in the future! Go buy the album!

You can also find most of the band's songs at youtube.

Preview | Buy! | Myspace | Facebook | discogs